The ambitions of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, inflated by billions of rubles from Kremlin coffers, have transformed Grozny into a glittering monument of hero worship and mass amnesia.
Nobody I meet in Grozny believes that Islamist insurgents killed Akhmad Kadyrov, the first Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya. Here it’s taken for granted that Russian security agencies were behind the assassination.
The couple of women I see are extravagantly done up, wearing high, high heels as if they were out in Moscow. But there isn’t a drop of alcohol, not in the Café Muskat and not in the convenience store around the corner.
We arrive in Argun, on the outskirts of Grozny. Days after the Russian assault, Tagir Gadzhiyev escorted English and American journalists along the same highway. They had to turn around here because of an air raid.